Abortion Policies Europe

Status on abortion in some European countries:

      BRITAIN: In England, Scotland and Wales, abortion was legalized in 1967; available up to 24 weeks. Population 10% Catholic. In British province of Northern Ireland (population 40% Catholic), the 1967 Abortion Act never applied. Abortion legal there, as no specific law [which] prohibits it, but in practice, it is very rare.

      DENMARK: Abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy has been a right since law passed in 1973. About 20% (approx. 18,000) of all pregnancies end in abortion in this country of 5.2 million. Fewer than 2% Roman Catholic.

      GERMANY: Abortion legal but woman must present a certificate showing she has received counseling from church group, the Red Cross or the state. About 33% Roman Catholic among 83 million population.

      IRELAND: Abortion illegal. Last referendum on it in 1993 rejected legalization, but made it legal to advertise foreign abortion services and allowed foreign travel to receive them. Predominately Roman Catholic.

      ITALY: Abortion on demand through 12th week since legalized in 1978. 1981 referendum backed law. Population 99% Roman Catholic.

      POLAND: 1993 law allows abortion only for strict medical reasons, ending longtime abortion on demand policy. Parliament introduced more liberal rules in 1996, but a high court ruled them unconstitutional. Poland 90% Catholic.

      ROMANIA: Abortion legal through 12th week and is the most widely-used form of contraception. Both contraception and abortion were banned under former dictator Ceausescu. About 70% of country is Roman or Eastern Rite Catholic.

      SPAIN: Since 1985, abortion allowed during first 12 weeks, but only in cases of rape, fetus malformation or danger to mother's life or mental health. Relatively easy to find psychiatrists willing to authorize termination. Numerous private abortion clinics. Almost all Spaniards Roman Catholic.

      SWITZERLAND: Abortion illegal unless mother's life in danger. 1988 vote that would have strictly forbid abortions defeated. 46% of Swiss Roman Catholic.

Source: New York Times via Associated Press.

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This story was published on July 1, 1998.